When it comes to upping your indoor cycling game, looking for the best indoor cycling shoes may not be the first thing that comes to mind, let alone women’s specific ones. However, the best women’s indoor cycling shoes can really transform your training for the better.
You’ll be well aware by now of how much hotter the room can feel while training indoors, since there’s a total lack of breeze to help your sweat to evaporate, leaving it clinging to your skin like moss on a damp rock.
That’s why it’s crucial to stay cool and hydrated while cycling indoors, and one of the best ways of turning down the heat (aside from setting up a decent fan) is choosing the best indoor cycling clothing that helps your skin to breathe. That goes for footwear too, and that’s where the best women’s indoor cycling shoes come in.
During last year’s numerous lockdowns, many of us became well acquainted with cycling indoors. With winter well on its way, it only makes sense that more of us than ever are taking to our turbo trainers and getting ready for an indoor season.
You may already be using your high-end road kicks, and of course, the best women’s cycling shoes for riding outdoors will do the job indoors too. However, investing in some indoor-specific cycling shoes will offer your feet the chance to really breathe, and you won’t wear out your favourite cycling shoes in the meantime.
Whether you’re looking to prolong the lifespan of your best shoes, or are looking for something that’s more forgiving as you churn away at indoor kilometres, a second pair of shoes could do a lot to improve your indoor cycling experience.
Read on for our picks of the best indoor cycling shoes, or skip to the bottom for our guide on how to choose the best women’s indoor cycling shoes for you.
Best women’s indoor cycling shoes
These women-specific road shoes from Scott are designed with all-day comfort in mind. Built around a pre-shaped ErgoLogic insole which offers a stable foundation, they make use of Scott’s anatomic ‘wrap fit’. This comprises a synthetic leather layer which conforms to the foot like a second skin, combined with a series of internal straps which wrap around and support key areas of the foot.
The nylon outsole is reinforced with fibreglass, making it more comfortable and compliant than a carbon sole, while also retaining a stiffness index rating of six. This makes these Scott shoes an ideal option for any woman wanting to comfortably train indoors without sacrificing power efficiency. The sole is finished with an outer coating of rubber compound for traction when walking.
The upper is made from synthetic polyurethane and 3D Airmesh, a highly breathable fabric constructed from two layers spaced apart by fine polyester fibres to maximise airflow. The whole thing is sealed with a Boa dial to help achieve a precise fit.
For more information, read our Scott Road Comp Boa Lady shoe review.
Featuring trickle-down technology from Giro’s Imperial road shoe, the Women’s Regime Road is designed to eke out every single watt from each pedal stroke. It features the brand’s innovative Synchwire technology, a thermal-laminated TPU with supple and breathable monofilament mesh. All this is to say that the single-piece upper provides superior structure and stability devoid of the potential for hotspots or discomfort. What’s more, it contains perforations across more than half its exterior in order to facilitate airflow for decent cooling.
Meanwhile, the carbon composite sole offers impressive stiffness that refuses to flex even during out-of-the-saddle stomping on the pedals. If you’re looking to maximise your power output during your Zwift sessions, you can’t go wrong with these.
One of our male testers has reviewed the men’s version of the Giro Regime Road shoes, and many of the features are shared across the genders, so take a read for more in-depth detail.
With the rise in popularity of indoor cycling, Nike jumped on the bandwagon with the launch of the SuperRep Cycle, designed specifically for indoor cycling, namely spinning and Peloton classes. While these shoes are listed on the website as a women’s version, the fact that the sizing only goes as small as a UK size 5 indicates that they’re actually unisex. This means that women with larger feet will be catered for, but these won’t be suitable for the more petite among us.
The nylon sole has mounts for both two-bolt and three-bolt cleats, while the upper is made from a combination of mesh outer and a perforated sock liner, with vents through the bottom of the plate, channelling airflow towards the toes. There’s no denying that these shoes from Nike are highly breathable, however, they do lack adequate torsional stiffness for anyone wanting to retain a level of power efficiency while training indoors.
Check out our Nike SuperRep Cycle review for more.
Shimano’s IC (indoor cycling) shoes are designed to provide maximum ventilation, thanks to the mesh fabric which makes up pretty much the entire upper. Cinched together with a Boa L6 dial and synthetic leather tongue that wraps around the upper foot, it’s easy to achieve a precision fit that feels comfortable for sessions with the turbo trainer.
That precision also helps reduce any excess movement in the foot, which can lead to wasted energy. Combined with a rigid nylon sole, the overall stiffness is rated five on Shimano’s scale. Being a two-bolt compatible shoe, the sole features small lugs to help with walking, while the SPD cleat is protected from touching the ground.
Fizik’s R2 Vento Powerstrap Aeroweave is designed to be the ultimate lightweight and ventilated racing shoe, which translates well into indoor training. The Aeroweave upper is a net-like structure that is extremely breathable and sheds heat easily, while the Powerstrap, an enveloping Velcro closure that wraps around the foot, offers a precision fit that feels stable and comfortable throughout your training session.
These shoes come with an R2 carbon sole that has a stiffness index rating of 10, offering optimal power transfer. They may be a bit of an investment, but they work well for both indoor and outdoor training, and deliver outstanding performance on race day. What’s not to love?
Technically the Empire E70 Knit shoes from Giro were not developed specifically for indoor cycling, and they have a carbon sole which is something we have advised against in our guide below. However we’ve made an exception for these because the breathability and ventilation they offer is second to none, and the sock-like comfort that comes with wearing them means they’ve made the list anyway. If your priority is maximum power, and if you’re not likely to be training for long periods of time, then why not splurge?
To anyone new to the game it might seem strange to have knit technology in cycling shoes, which require a blend of supple comfort and strong performance. However the Giro engineered Xnetic Knit upper was developed specifically for the sport. It envelops a TPU skeletal system and nylon core, both of which provide the support needed to maximise the pedal stroke.
Meanwhile, the reinforced heel and toe area enhances the shoes’ durability and abrasion resistance. The breathable and quick-drying upper feels light and airy, helping to keep your feet cool and comfortable, and it’s DWR-treated which, while the water-resistance it offers isn’t a necessary feature of indoor cycling shoes, it does also make them easier to clean, especially if you’re a pretty sweaty mess by the end of your session.
Finally, the lacing system is unique, in that it’s designed to eliminate specific areas of the upper foot that are prone to overheating or high friction when using traditional Velcro straps.
Originally launched as the sister company to Giant, Liv Cycling is now in a league of its own, leading the pack as one of the only cycling brands (producing bikes, clothing and accessories) for women, by women, with women. With women present at every stage of the design and production process, you can rest assured that whatever you buy from Liv will be optimised to work with your body.
The Macha Road Comp shoe is technically designed for both indoor and outdoor cycling, but it was impossible not to include them on this list for the sheer performance they offer to the indoor cyclist. Blending stiffness with torsional flex, they hit the sweet spot between comfort and efficiency, cradling your foot while you maximise your power output on every pedal stroke.
The nylon and fibreglass composite outsole features injection moulded TPU elements in the heel and toe areas for added durability and protection while off the bike.
Meanwhile, the overall construction holds the front of the foot firmly in place while allowing torsional movement of the mid- and rear foot. This is how it provides both motion efficiency and a relaxed fit. Finally, we’d be remiss to not mention the TransTextura Plus sockliner, which Liv claims to let heat escape while keeping your feet feeling fresh.
These women-specific shoes from Specialized are designed with indoor cycling in mind, featuring the brand’s best comfort technology without sacrificing performance. The soles and footbeds are constructed with the brand’s Body Geometry design, aimed at enhancing performance while providing ergonomic comfort. The construction helps to align the hip, knee and foot to optimise power output, as well as reducing the risk of injury.
For comfort and breathability, the upper is constructed from welded mesh for ventilation and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) for high elasticity, low-heat performance and anti-abrasion. This results in fewer seams against the foot, eliminating the risk of irritation or chafing. A nylon sole offers a degree of comfort while retaining all-important rigidity, and features a rubber outsole to aid with walking and prevent slipping.
The Liv Regalo road shoes use global body dimensions data and a specially designed foot last to create a women-specific fit that is both snug and relaxed at the same time. They are designed to keep your feet cool and dry, with a four-vent cooling system that mimics an airflow effect. This works with a honeycomb-esque air mesh fibre on the upper part of the shoe, which results in superior cooling ideal for indoor cycling sessions.
Meanwhile, the ForceDrive nylon outsole provides all the required stiffness for efficient power transfer, while being compatible with both two-bolt and three-bolt cleat systems. Walking ability is enhanced by anti-slip studs in the front, middle and rear of the sole, making it easy to move about regardless of which cleats you opt for.
How to choose the best women’s indoor cycling shoes for you
Before you go ahead and splurge on something fancy, there are several factors you should consider before buying women’s indoor cycling shoes. They need to fit well – snug, but not too tight – and adhere to the shape of your foot, especially since, as a woman, your foot may be shaped differently to the ‘unisex’ appendage that most brands cater to when producing women’s footwear.
Do I need women’s specific indoor cycling shoes?
In terms of design and manufacturing, there’s not a huge distinction between women’s cycling shoes and men’s (or unisex, for that matter). The main difference in the production process is that a female foot last – a shaping tool used by shoemakers – forms the base around which the shoe is created.
This is important because anatomically, women’s feet aren’t just scaled-down versions of men’s. They differ in shape, especially in the ankle, the arch, the ball, the toes and the outer side of the foot. The female foot last will reflect this, and therefore women-specific cycling shoes will accommodate these intricate differences.
Of course, this is all based on average dimensions and you should follow your own knowledge of your body when choosing indoor cycling shoes. If you’ve always found unisex or men’s shoes comfortable, then you may not need a women’s fit at all.
Which cleats do I need?
The majority of cycling shoes use either a two-bolt (SPD) or three-bolt (SPD-SL or Look) mounting system. SPD shoes are more geared towards off-road riding, in that they offer some slight flexibility, and the cleat is tucked away into a recess, making the shoes much easier to walk in. SPD-SL shoes, on the other hand, are optimised for road cycling and will feature a stiff sole for better power transfer. If you’re training to power, you will most likely want to opt for this version, however be warned that due to the cleat protruding out from the sole, these shoes are extremely difficult to walk in. Not only are you more likely to slip, but the cleats themselves can be worn away over time, not to mention the damage that can be done to a delicate carbon sole or the flooring in your home.
Most importantly, whichever option you choose will need to be compatible with the pedals on your indoor bike. If you have pedals that accommodate either an SPD-SL or Look cleat, then you’ll need to find shoes with the three-bolt cleat compatibility on the sole. If you’re running SPD pedals, then look for shoes with a two-bolt cleat interface.
If your indoor cycling involves spin classes or something like a Peloton bike, the most commonly used pedals are likely to work with the two-bolt cleats. Some may also have a Look Delta pedal on the underside, which works with the three-bolt cleats.
If you’re setting up your well-loved road bike indoors, then you’ll already have your pedals installed, so all you need to do is opt for some indoor cycling shoes that are compatible. However, if you’re starting up a brand new indoor setup, we’d advise you to look into MTB shoes and pedals. They’re much easier to walk around in, making them ideal for when you need to suddenly duck out for a bathroom break and hit the tiles with a bit too much speed.
Which sole material should I choose?
Carbon soles may be lighter than the alternatives, but weight isn’t the biggest consideration when you’re training indoors. What you should prioritise here is comfort. Stiff carbon soles can put undue stress on knees and ankles, which is magnified two-fold when the bike is basically bolted to the floor. During long indoor cycling sessions, you won’t move around on the bike as much as you would outside, which means some areas of your foot can become irritated through overuse.
That’s why we’d recommend opting for shoes that come with a degree of flexibility. Not only will they provide much-needed comfort, but they can also help alleviate overuse injuries. Plus, the loss in power transfer is only reflected in your power numbers, so unless you’re planning on racing indoors, it won’t affect the quality of your session.
Most indoor cycling shoes will feature nylon soles, which are rigid enough to offer efficient power transfer, but also have some natural compliance for improved comfort. They’re also more cost-effective as well, which is an added bonus.
How can I tell if shoes are breathable?
For indoor cycling, one of the most important things to consider is airflow. You need to keep your skin feeling cool and dry, otherwise, you’re in for a slog that feels much harder than it needs to.
Look for shoes that offer lots of ventilation, through mesh panels and an open design. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your feet are in a sauna, which is exactly what will happen if you rely on outdoor shoes that only need pin-prick perforations to provide a little cooling while the outside air does the rest.